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Osborne hails deals with China

Chancellor George Osborne has hailed new commercial deals between British and Chinese firms worth more than £2.4 billion as the Government seeks to strengthen economic ties with Beijing.

Mr Osborne will use the sixth annual economic summit between the two countries in London, attended by Chinese vice premier Ma Kai, to set out measures to encourage more high spending Chinese tourists to visit Britain by easing visa restrictions.

A new initiative will refund the cost of up to 25,000 visas issued to Chinese tourists booking on to UK tours through a network of approved operators in China while VisitBritain and the Home Office are investing £1.6 million marketing Britain in China.

At the same time Home Secretary Theresa May will confirm an exemption from the need for transit visas for official Chinese tour groups travelling through UK airports to Schengen countries in the European Union.

Mr Osborne will also confirm that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China - the country's largest bank - has been issued with a branch licence by the Prudential Regulation Authority enabling it to expand its operations in the UK.

Among the business deals agreed is the financial closing of a £600 million UK-China partnership on the Malaysian oil terminal project and memorandum of understanding between Haythorpe and CITIC Guan Investment to develop a series of elderly care homes and vocational training schools, worth £200 million.

Mr Osborne said: "The landmark agreements we are reaching today show we are forging long-term bonds with China as the economic and financial powerhouse of the next century."

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